Although Sardinia’s northeast gets most of the hype, the South and West are a treasure trove full of hidden gems. From the charming capital sparkling Mediterranean serenity to desolate dune strips on the Costa Verde, there are plenty of opportunities to get a taste of authentic Sardinia.
If you’re thinking of visiting the more remote part of Sardinia, read on for the six best things to explore in the South West..
Visit the capital Cagliari and soak in its Mediterranean serenity
Sardinia’s capital is a colorful and warm city influenced by ancient history. The cityscape is shaped by ancient fortresses, picturesque quarters and sea view terraces. Stroll through the historic quarters Castello, Stampace, Marina and Villanova, sit down in a café or piazetta and observe the locals. Observe, how are people communicating, how’s the energy like?
How to explore?
I recommend to leave the car and discover by foot. Driving in Cagliari can be exhausting due to traffic jam and narrow streets. Stroll around, get lost in the historic quarters and mingle with the locals. Cagliari’s atmosphere is best captured by wandering through the medieval streets wherever it takes you.
Things to do
- Castello quarter: Cagliari’s heart and landmark situated on a hill with views over the city. Most of sights are located in this quarter, the university, several museums, amongst others Museo Archeologico Nazionale, former palaces, the cathedral Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Castello etc.
- Stampace quarter: revolves around Piazza Yenne, the botanical garden, the roman amphitheatre
- City beach Poetto: witness how city life takes place on the beach; it’s lined with restaurants, bars, clubs etc.
- Windsurf or dive from Poetto: Due to several shipwrecks Golfo di Cagliari is an excellent area for diving
- Hike to the city’s highest mountain Monte dei Sette Fratelli
- Stroll through the promenade along the seashore and breathe in the ocean breeze
- Wander through one of the colorful markets
Mercato di San Benedetto (Monday – Saturday 1 a.m. – 2 p.m.) for a taste of Sardinia: authentic market, few tourists, huge variety of typical Sardinian delicacies
Mercato di Santa Chiara (Monday – Saturday, 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.), smaller market with typical Sardinian products, Pecorino, Cannonau
Antique and collector’s market at the Piazza del Carmine (first, second and fourth Sunday of the month)
Did you know? When voting Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2013, Cagliari was in the final round, how appropriate!
Ristorante Ammentos: trattoria offering Sardinian cuisine in a rustical atmosphere
Man.Gia: laid-back restaurant offering gluten free and delicious pizza & pasta, (yes, gluten-free Italian pizza and pasta, and it’s delicious!)
Disconnect at Sardinia’s remote desert coast Costa Verde
Costa Verde is a shoreline of desolate beaches on Sardinia’s southwest coast. Seek out Spiaggia di Scivu and Spiaggia di Piscina. They’re wild and free, forming an extraordinary landscape. Sandstrips surrounded by high dunes spotted with bushes, maccia, olive trees and sandstone rocks.
The azure Mediterranean is circled by 30- meter -high golden dunes. The desert-like environment is created by the wind Maestrale and stretches out kilometer long on the Costa Verde.
Because it’s more difficult to get to and there isn’t a lot of infrastructure, fortunately, you’ll only see few tourists, even during high season.
Visit the harbor city Alghero for some Catalan flair
The harbor city, former Catalan fortress, spreads Spanish flair. Throughout the city the history of Alghero as a former Catalan colony is tangible. Not least when looking at street signs written in Italian and Catalan.
Alghero and the whole north west appear less rural than other parts. However, I found the medieval city is one of the prettiest within Sardinia and main attraction in the north west.
Stroll through the promenade, the medieval old town and have some seafood in the harbor. Pay attention, how does it taste, how are the spices like? How is it served?
Go hiking in the Nature Reserve Parco di Porto Ponte
Parco di Porto Ponte is one of Sardinia’s two nature reserves. 60 km coast shore with diverse landscapes of forests, wetlands, Mediterranean macchia and white cliffs. You’ll find plenty of hiking opportunities, especially in the protected area of Le Prigionette. Breathe in the Sardinian air and watch for some wild boars, white donkeys, wild horses, eagles the Sardinian deer.
Tip: Hike up to the viewpoint Punta Giglio. It’s a challenging hike but you’ll be rewarded with overwhelming views to the Mediterranean and the opposite Capo Caccia.
Climb down 654 stairs from Cappo Caccia to Grotta di Nettuno
Cappo Caccia is the most southern point of Parco di Porto Conte. From there you can climb down 654 stairs on the vertical Escala del Cabirol to get to the Grotta di Nettuno, a cave with stalagmites and stalactites. Or you go by boat from Alghero. Tours of the cave are operated each full hour, lasting 45 minutes.
Stroll through Bosa off the beaten path
Approaching Bosa, it reminds of a painting. The old town with its pastel houses on a hillside, above the castle Castelo Malaspina. In front, on the river Fiume Temo little boats are swinging. Wander along the promenade and observe the fishermen mending their nets on the waterfront. At sunset they’re sailing up the river and early in the morning they’re offering their catch.
Walk through the medieval old town with lots of little cafés, bars and boutiques to Corso Vittoria Emanuele where you’ll find several Palazzi from the 18th and 19th century. Following the narrow alleys paved with cobblestone up the hill, you’ll stumble across the picturesque castle Malaspina.
Restaurant Tip:Borgo Sant’Ignazio, located in Bosa’s old town serving traditional specialties fregola sarda, wild boar or lamb Sardinian style
I found, Bosa is one of Sardinia’s towns perfectly capturing the local atmosphere without being overrun by tourism. It has a magical atmosphere and one of the prettiest old towns throughout Sardinia, if not Italy.
Have you been to Sardinia’s South West? Did you like it? Would you like to go? In case you have, do you have any further recommendations, tips on things to do and where to go? Share your thoughts, I’d love to chat!